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Experimental/Post Metal

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Infidel Art is the second studio album from Japanese experimental extreme metal act Sigh. Sigh´s debut album Scorn Defeat ( 1993) was a strange mix of old school eighties euro thrash metal like Kreator, Celtic Frost, Destruction and Sodom and a few symphonic elements. I wasn ´t too impressed with the primitive outcome which was to be frank a bit laughable at times ( at least I had a hard time taking it serious). Infidel Art continues down the same path when we´re talking general sound and style but the quality of the songs is much higher than on Scorn Defeat and therefore this album does impress me slightly more.

The metal parts on the album are still very primitive old school eighties euro thrash ( Several times I´m reminded of Endless Pain by Kreator) and pretty average at that but what is great about the songs are the many classical symphonic parts which are created by piano and keyboards/ synths. Sometimes those parts are really beautiful and well composed as well. With titles like Suicidogenic and The Zombie Terror it´s not hard to imagine which kind of lyrical themes Sigh has worked on for Infidel Art. There´s also a slight horror element in some of the keyboard parts on the album. There´s even some symphonic rock parts on the album like the ending of Desolation. The vocals on the album is mostly black metal rasps or rather rough old school thrash metal vocals. I´ve read some places that Sigh is black metal which is true to some extent but I think it´s important to note that they have more in common with the earl/ mid eighties euro thrash metal style than actual black metal. At least on this release. They usually don´t play very fast either. No blast beats on this album ( not that you can´t play black metal without them of course). I´ve seen Sigh compared to both Mayhem and Darkthrone which I have a hard time hearing.

The musicianship has become better since the debut but I still miss some bite and interesting riffs.

The production is allright. The metal parts don´t always sound too good but the keyboards and synths sound great IMO.

Infidel Art is a hard album to rate as it has many great parts but also feature some pretty average metal riffing that brings the album down a bit. I still feel that it´s a highly inventive album though and will stretch and give Infidel Art 3 stars. It´s not a personal favorite but still a very interesting album.

Report this review (#191825)
Posted Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Infidel Art' - Sigh (7/10)

Sigh is undoubtedly one of the strangest, and most inventive metal bands I have come across. With each album, they reinvent themselves in unexpected ways, leaving no stone unturned as they make their way. Although Sigh is often labelled as a black metal group, they are probably best simply described as being 'avant-garde'; their music and approach always changes, but their ambition and originality stays consistent. The first album of theirs, 'Scorn Defeat' (along with a handful of demos) stuck to a thrashy black metal standard, content to mirror their European contemporaries with the same sort of raw riffs and primal delivery that the genre of black metal is best known for. 'Infidel Art' sees a big evolution for the band, and a step towards the more ambitious material they would be known for in the future.

'Infidel Art' sees the band teetering between the forward-thinking, and the formulaic. Sigh's work here can be roughly split into two sides; half of the time on the album is devoted to a sound of blackened thrash that only differs from the demo material by an improved sense of production. The speedy riffs and energy of the band is enjoyable and while not having the same grasp of atmosphere like contemporaries Mayhem or Emperor had with their black metal sound, it is fairly well performed and nicely heavy. It's the other dimension of sound on 'Infidel Art' that I find to be the more interesting though; even early on, Sigh were not afraid to test the boundaries of their style, and this would be taken to new heights with the addition of strange symphonic elements in Sigh's makeup. Sometimes, these symphonic sounds- which typically fall back on a keyboard emulating a string section or Japanese woodwind- are meant to compliment the existing black metal sound by whistling along with the guitars and drums, but Sigh hits their peak here when the symphonic elements take over. I was very surprised to hear the complexity of the orchestrations that Sigh composes and carries out here, especially at the end of the highlight 'Desolation', there is a long section with a dramatic cinematic flair that almost feels as if it could have been plucked from a Sergio Leone film. Sigh also works with some scarce clean vocals here on top of the more metal leaning rasps, and they are quite warm and well-done.

One thing that continues to irritate me about 'Infidel Art' however is its somewhat scattered feeling. There are great ideas everywhere here, and it has some remarkably interesting things to offer, but as a whole, it suffers from a bumpy consistency. When I hear such great things as 'Desolation' or other places where Sigh works their symphonic magic, it can get monotonous to hear them focusing on their metal element for a little too long here and there. Sigh typically has a feeling of randomness in their music, and I get that sense here as well; although each aspect has alot of individual potential, I sometimes ask myself if the way they try to combine the different sounds in the album is always effective, or rather contrived.

A very good album for Sigh, as well as an early sign of what could really be done with black metal once its musicians started looking outside the box.

Report this review (#507117)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars SIGH's connection to the world of second wave black metal is in many ways more circumstantial than musically related but throughout its multi-decade career and indeed displaying some of the characteristics that the Norwegian scene delivered in abundance, the band has continued to evolve its unique hybridization effect that really took off on this second album. The discovery of this band can be attributed to Euronymous of Mayhem, one of Norway's premiere forces of black metal terror that the world wasn't ready for. After hearing this bizarre hybrid of musical styles that mixed European black metal with symphonic and classical elements enshrouded in the avant-garde, Euronymous quickly signed the fledgling act to his infamous Deathlike Silence Records where the trio of Mirai Kawashima (vocals, bass, keyboards), Shinichi Ishikawa (guitars) and Satoshi Fujinami (drums, percussion) released the debut album "Scorn Defeat" but to the band's dismay Euryonymous would soon die and the label would go down in flames with him.

Back the drawing board but having gained some momentum with a single release due to the band's early idiosyncrasies that easily stood out amongst the burgeoning packs filling up the wolf's den and found a new home on the British based Cacophonous Records where they would soon release the second album INFIDEL ART. The fact is that SIGH has never truly fit into the black metal scene even from the very beginning but on "Infidel Art" it was obviously that they had no interest in trying to adapt to that cookie-cutter description and instead opted to explore a wide new arena of possibilities and in the process of going down this path has become one of Japan's most interesting bands to exist within the greater metal paradigm with one album after another showing yet another distinct persona that never seems to find an end to the variations and experimental touches that this band has nurtured every step of the way.

While still generally dropped into the black metal category for convenience's sake, INFIDEL ART doesn't exude the typical rage and boisterous angst that the early 90s delivered in the second wave scene. Instead it mixes the elements of black metal that include the filthy raw guitar distortion and raspy vocal style with Western classical infusions that offer long drawn out symphonic piano motifs with many moments more reminiscent of Frederic Chopin than anything Darkthrone or Emperor ever created. There is a clear sense of nonchalant meandering on SIGH's second offering especially with the tamped down tempos that offer more glimpses of doom metal than the blackened blastbeats or tremolo picking styles almost ubiquitously implemented in the style of the era. Add to that a clear sense of progressive sensibilities that allowed the compositions to spiral into sophisticated layers of tones, timbres and labyrinthine constructs that eschewed the predictable tritone fury and instead created journeys into a more surreal sonicscape.

With two distinct album slices called "SIde Terror" and "Side Funeral," INFIDEL ART opens with "Izuna" which displays some connections to the black metal world, it doesn't take long for the copious piano rolls and symphonic touches to usurp the existential angst and instead create a lush form of progressive rock. Tracks like "Desolation" get even weirder as it lollygags slowly down a lamenting trajectory at a funeral doom metal's pace only accompanied by lush atmospheric orchestration, classical piano riffs and even eerie theremin sounds creating a haunting vibe. The vocal performances eschew singing for the most part with some sort of declarative poetic prose only half-sung which after listening to this so closely after reviewing Dødheimgard's magnum opus "A Umbra Omega," it becomes perfectly clear exactly where the inspiration behind that album originated from which makes SIGH a significant early band of influential prowess for the avant-garde splintering off bands of the black metal world who also quickly tired of the one-dimensional nature of the most simplistic paradigms and went for the avant-garde jugular.

The longest track "The Last Elegy" at 10 and a half minutes begins like a symphony from the 1700s in all its authenticity before morphing into a doom metal monster that sounds a bit like My Dying Bride only with classical keyboards replacing the lugubrious string sounds of the violin. The track ratchets up both the metal and symphonic touches as well as becoming more progressive with a continuing parade of musical motifs building intensity with interesting call and response vocal sections as well as a more upbeat Black Sabbath guitar riffing section. The album continues with not one but TWO more tracks that just miss the ten minute mark with a continuation of the classical music motifs fortified by both doom and black metal styles all decked out symphonic touches and progressive build ups that explode into thundering climactic resolutions. I've never considered INFIDEL ART to be one of SIGH's best works but after a few more listens lately this album has gotten under my skin and for those who aren't black metal purists and appreciate the dexterity of genre juggling so perfectly performed then you can't go wrong with this album. Not quite as adventurous as some of the future albums but what this album lacks in sheer diversity of musical styles, it more than makes up for in top notch compositions that find the perfect balance between beautiful melodies and metal bombast although tamped down to the doom metal variety for the majority of the album's run.

Report this review (#2240189)
Posted Friday, July 26, 2019 | Review Permalink

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